Michael Oren, former ambassador to the US, speaking infront of Christians United for Israel. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jewish leaders from the United States, Europe and Israel have expressed interest in having Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren replace Natan Sharansky as Jewish Agency chairman, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Oren confirmed that the Jewish leaders approached him months ago about replacing Sharansky, who will be leaving the post he has held since 2009 following a Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem on June 24-26.
He has built up a close relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will appoint a candidate who must be approved by the board of governors, which is also meeting later this month in Zichron Ya’acov. He proved reliable to Netanyahu and built up his relationship with American Jewish leaders during his tenure as ambassador to the US.
“Appointing Michael to the job is a great idea,” said Jane Sherman, who has been a member of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors since 1983 and an honorary member since 2012. “He is truly interested in the betterment of the Jewish world. He understands the world Jewish community and American Jews in particular as well as anyone in Israel.”
If given the post, Oren would not be the first former ambassador to the US to also serve as Jewish Agency chairman. His predecessor in Washington, Sallai Meridor, headed it before becoming ambassador. Simcha Dinitz also held both posts and, like Oren, was also an MK.
But Oren said he is not actively pursuing the job.
reported in November that American heads of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America had given Netanyahu a list of at least six candidates they deem worthy to succeed Sharansky: National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, Consul General in New York Dani Dayan, Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and former ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor.
If Netanyahu does not select a candidate in time for the February board of governors meeting, his last chance before Sharansky’s departure will be at the June meeting, because Sharansky intends to leave his post immediately after that meeting.
It is possible that the agency chairmanship will remain vacant for a few months, and the prime minister will only appoint a replacement ahead of the October board meeting, which will coincide with the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Tel Aviv.
If that happens, the Jewish Agency would be chaired on an interim basis by its vice chairman, David Breakstone.